While there’s no way to be entirely safe from potential natural disasters, criminal acts and terrorist threats — there are ways to reduce potential risks.
And, there are ways to get help in responding to incidents that have occurred.
Those were the twin messages delivered by a security advisor from the Department of Homeland Security to members of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce, during a chamber luncheon meeting.
O.T. “Ollie” Gagnon III is a protective security advisor in the Central Florida District for the Department of Homeland Security, office of infrastructure protection.
He came to the luncheon to share his knowledge about the nature of threats and to alert chamber members to the myriad free resources that are available to help them.
There’s a wealth of information intended to help business owners to keep their businesses, customers and employees safe from potential threats and hazards, Gagnon said.
“We have a ton of resources that are available to you,” he said.
Gagnon advised those in the audience to check out the website, DHS.gov/hometownsecurity, to find out about the department’s Protective Security Advisor Program.
Gagnon also recommended Ready.gov/business to help businesses develop plans to ensure safety, security and business continuity.
He understands the importance of protecting infrastructure, to ensure the continued supply of electricity, communications and water.
Ready.gov/business also offers to help people learn how to identify and report suspicious activity, and to prepare to follow a security plan, in case of an emergency.
The Department of Homeland Security also offers pointers on how to spot suspicious behavior and how to report it. Those details can be found at DHS.gov/see-something-say-something.
Gagnon, whose district includes 17 counties, knows his ways around security issues.
Before joining the Department of Homeland Security, he was a 23-year veteran of the Air Force, engaged in assignments all over the world.
At one point, he was chief of security for Air Force One, under the G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, he said, estimating he had about 200 trips on Air Force One.
He also understands potential threats surrounding large events, such as the Super Bowl and the Republican National Convention.
But, there are other threats that can arise in daily life, in less secure environments, Gagnon said.
One of the biggest threats that businesses face is the potential for being unable to continue their business when there’s a natural disaster, an active shooting incident, or some other major incident.
“Seventy-five percent of businesses that are down for two weeks never come back up,” Gagnon said. That’s because they don’t have multiple locations or deep pockets.
Businesses need to know how they will continue to operate, if they are knocked out of commission by a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane.
When it’s a Category 5, help will be coming, he said. For a less severe storm, a business might be on its own.
“How does your business get its power and water?” Gagnon asked.
“A tornado can affect your area for three, four, five, six, seven days,” he said. “An active shooter event, too, you can be down for a week because of the investigation.”
Whether an incident happens on a business’s property, or next door, it could affect the business’s ability to continue its operations, he said.
Obviously, risks arise in places where people routinely go, Gagnon said.
“Does anyone here not go to a mall?” You go to movie theaters. You go to night classes. Your children go to school,” he said.
There’s an online course offered through the Department of Homeland Security that can help prepare people to know what to do when an active shooter threat arises.
“We’ve all heard of the ‘Run, hide, fight.’ That comes out of our office,” Gagnon said.
“The chance of actually being involved in an active shooter incident, you probably have a greater chance of being bit by a shark or attacked by a gator. It’s like one in a million, literally, the odds,” he said.
On the other hand, threats from cybercrime continue to increase.
“Cyber security comes out of our office,” he said, and there are ways to reduce the threat.
When it comes to staying safe, preparation is important, Gagnon said.
“(FBI) Director (James) Comey said it best: ‘You don’t want to be that person who locks himself in a room and never comes out because he’s scared that something is going to happen, but you don’t want to be that person who’s standing on a subway platform in New York city with his iPod and his headphones in, reading something, standing a foot from the platform, oblivious to the world around him.
“You want to have a healthy sense of awareness.”
Published March 29, 2017